Texas A&M receives $3.74 million for research into 3D printed hemp concrete buildings
A plan by Texas A&M University researchers to 3D print resilient new buildings using hemp concrete has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of traditional building methods and make housing more affordable and available, according to an article posted on the University’s College of Engineering website by Alyson Chapman.
The project will be funded by a $3.74 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program.
Dr. Petros Sideris, an assistant professor in Zachry’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will lead the project as a principal investigator to develop potential residential and commercial construction designs. His team consists of Assistant Professor Dr. Maria Koliou, Department Head and Professor Dr. Zachary Grasley, and Department Professor Dr. Anand Puppala, and Associate Professor Dr. Manish Dixit and Professor Dr. Wei Yan from Texas A&M College of Architecture. .
Hempcrete is made by mixing hemp powder, fibers or shives with lime and water, creating a lightweight and environmentally friendly building material. Although it is considered an extremely durable and strong material, it is also, intuitively, very difficult to 3D print competently. As construction 3D printing technologies continue to rapidly evolve, using both traditional and innovative concrete mixes (or inks), some companies have begun to consider hempcrete as an even more sustainable alternative.
“While the production of conventional building materials such as concrete requires large amounts of energy and releases large amounts of CO2 (carbon dioxide), hempcrete is a net carbon negative material, which can offer major environmental benefits,” Sideris said.
Hempcrete has already been used worldwide in residential construction and prefabricated modular construction. Now, Texas A&M researchers will use 3D printing in this project to create building designs that achieve structural and energy performance that meets modern design codes.
“Hempcrete has excellent fire resistance and thermal insulation properties that can reduce heating and cooling energy requirements,” he said. “It is water resistant and offers good acoustic properties.”
As part of the project, building designs will be printable and created to achieve structural and energy performance in line with modern design codes. Sideris said digital printable hempcrete building designs will facilitate adoption by the construction industry.
“Advances from this project will help the United States maintain global leadership in advanced construction methods, infrastructure sustainability and resilient technologies,” he said.
The funding is part of HESTIA, which prioritizes overcoming barriers associated with buildings that store carbon, including scarce, expensive and geographically limited building materials. The HESTIA program aims to increase the total amount of carbon stored in buildings to create carbon sinks, which absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases during construction.